If you have ever tried wearing a face mask for anything longer than 10 minutes some of you may find that they can be a little uncomfortable and irritating. They are certainly an unusual experience for most of us but the current health crisis means we have to learn how and when to use them.
Most people outside of the medical professions are not used to wearing them and often feel they are not necessary.
Advice from scientific advisors and the UK Government is that everyone must wear face coverings on all forms of public transport and in situations where social distancing is not possible.
Here is a list of F.A.Q. (frequently asked questions) and a guide to help you answer them.
DO THEY HELP?
This is probably the most important qustion to answer. The simple answer is yes, BUT only if the majority of people around you are using them. Unless, that is, you are wearing a respirator mask, in which case you are better off, whether others are wearing masks or not.
The simple surgical masks we use with elasticated loops over the ears, do not form a perfect seal over your face and around your nose and mouth. If you want a much better seal then you need a respirator mask to help prevent you inhaling any virus particles.
However surgical masks do cover the mouth and nostrils so will provide a significant barrier to any particles of spit or airborne particles which you exhale that may contain the virus, whilst also providing a certain, but reduced, amount of protection if you are inhaling, depending on the quality and fit of the mask you are wearing.
This means that if you are wearing a mask then you are very much less likely to exhale the virus into the surrounding atmosphere, and so this will reduce the risk of someone else inhaling it or touching the virus which may have settled on a nearby surface from your breath.
Since research now shows that around 50% of people who catch the virus show no symptoms at all, it is not helpful for people to only decide to use a mask if they feel unwell.
The mask will also help you reduce the chances of inhaling the virus in the air around you, but obviously without a perfect seal around your face this is not to be completely relied upon for protection.
Therefore, if very few people wear a mask in a room, or in any closed environment like a train carriage, then the benefits are reduced, since those not wearing the mask could be exhaling the virus, and the persons wearing the mask will have less of a benefit of using the mask to prevent inhaling the virus.
The benefits of wearing a mask is therefore a collective benefit and requires effort from everyone. It is socially considerate to wear a mask so please do not be selfish and assume you can rely on receiving the benfit of others wearing a mask, but do not do so yourself. And remember you could be transmitting the virus even if you feel 100%.
IS WEARING A MASK ALL I NEED TO DO TO PROTECT MYSELF?
The simple answer is no. You also need to maintain appropriate social distancing AND most importantly, good hand washing routines. Wearing a mask could reduce your risk of catching a virus and also reduces the risk of you transmitting, it but it is not a 100% guarantee. A correctly fitted and appropriate mask will reduce your chances of catching the virus but you need to follow the instructions and recommendations below as well.
DOES THE AMOUNT OF TIME I AM AT RISK MATTER?
If you are briefly buying something at a till and spending 60 seconds in front of someone, then you (as the customer) are obviously not going to be exposed to much of a risk unless you are very unlucky and the person you are next to happens to be infected and exhales airborne particles straight at you. In this situation you are still at risk but it is a short and infrequent exposure to that risk.
However in this example, the person at the cash till is being exposed many times to the same level of risk (short but frequent exposure). This person has a much higher chance of inhaling air borne particles as they are exposed to many risk opportunities with the different people they come into contact with. It is therefore important to consider the issue of exposure time and frequency of exposure when looking at the risk and the need to wear a mask.
DO I NEED TO WEAR A MASK OUTDOORS?
There is less need to wear a face mask outdoors provided you maintain the correct level of social distancing and you are spending little time in face to face contact with people from outside of your household.
There is always a risk of inhaling virus particles when outdoors but the current advice suggests that a good circulation of air in an environment without a crowd should be relatively safe for most people who are not particularly vulnerable.
However, if you are in a crowded environment, even outside, such as a long queue for a shop, or if you are unable to ensure others can maintain safe social distancing, such as walking around a station or an airport, then it is safer to wear a mask.
SHOULD I WEAR A MASK EVEN IF I HAVE BREATHING DIFFICULTIES?
The UK Government advises that face coverings, including masks, should not be worn by people who have breathing difficulties. If in doubt please ask your doctor.
SHOULD I WEAR A MASK WHEN EXCERCISING?
We would suggest that you do not wear a mask whilst excercising as it could restrict the flow of air into and out of your lungs and cause you breathing difficulties. If in doubt please your doctor.
DO CHILDREN NEED TO WEAR A MASK?
The advice from the UK Government is that face masks should not be worn by children under 2 years old or by children who can't use them correctly without assistance.
HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?
This is difficult to answer as it all depends on the environment in which you have used them. The generally accepted view is that the basic surgical masks such as the Kordis Single Use Face Mask should not be worn for longer than 4 hours, and then disposed of safely.
A respirator mask could last longer, unless it is worn in a highly contaminated area.
HOW DO I WEAR A MASK?
First of all, wash your hands. There is no point trying to place a mask on your face with dirty hands that might contain the virus.
Most masks are two colour for a very good reason. The blue colour identifies the side that should be worn on the outside and the lighter colour is the one to place over your face.
The top of the mask is the edge that is slightly stiffer as it contains a light metal strip inside that is there to allow you to mould the strip onto the bridge of your nose. This helps create a better seal around your nose and the top of your cheeks.
Once the top is on and you have looped the elasticated cords over your ears, you should then pull the bottom of the mask down to release the folds and allow it to cover your face just under your chin. Always ensure that your mouth AND your nostrils are covered. There is no point wearing a mask that just covers your mouth as the virus will choose the easiest way into you, and most of us can breathe in and out through our noses too!
HOW DO I STOP MY GLASSES FOGGING UP?
Some users have reported problems with their glasses fogging up when they wear a face mask. This problem can be reduced if you pull the face mask further up on your nose or to mould the metal strip a little more firmly around the bridge of your nose. Alternatively try a respirator mask which has a better seal around the mouth and nose.
CAN I TOUCH THE MASK ONCE IT IS ON?
No. Do not touch the mask. The mask is made of three layers of filters designed to trap the virus on one of the three surfaces before it gets to the other side (either from your mouth or nose when you exhale, or from the outside to you when you inhale).
A mask is therefore one of the best places you could create to find the virus if you touched it!
If you keep touching the mask (except for the ear loops) then you are likely to infect your hands with the virus, if it has trapped any, so you are defeating the whole object of using the mask to protect you. In fact, you are probably increasing your risk of spreading the virus by touch.
So please do not fiddle or touch your mask when it is on. If you have to take it off for any reason just unloop one of the elasticated ear cords and let it hang by the other one (say to make a phone call – on the opposite side to wear the mask is hanging!). Or take it off completely using both ear loops.
DO NOT LEAVE THE MASK ON A SURFACE THAT YOU MAY TOUCH
If you have read the previous section then this should now seem obvious to you, as the mask may have trapped the virus and would then contaminate any surface you place it on. If you have to place it somewhere, then lay it on a tissue (blue side down) which you can carefully dispose of later.
WHY DO WE NOT HAVE A CULTURE OF WEARING A FACE MASK, AND WHO DOES?
In Europe /Scandinavia and North America, we generally have not been used to wearing face coverings and masks for health reasons, and it is often seen as an imposition on individual freedom and independence if we are obliged to wear one.
Many people also think it is strange not see all of someone’s face when they are talking to you, as we lose many visual cues to let us know what the other person is saying and how they feel, such as when they are smiling.
It is therefore not surprising that so many people dislike the idea of wearing masks or are struggling with them.
In Asia there is a culture of mask wearing as a sign of courtesy to others to prevent infection. This has been around for decades and well before SARS (in 2003) and Covid-19.
When this Covid -19 virus crisis started it was very easy for many Asian people to adopt this well-established practice and to tolerate it more easily. As a result (and along with a very strict policy of testing and isolation) the Covid 19 virus has been better contained than in Europe and North America, where mask wearing has not been part of the culture, outside of the medical profession
WHY HAS THE UK GOVERNMENT BEEN SO SLOW TO SAY THAT WE SHOULD ALL WEAR MASKS?
As you can see from the previous explanations the main benefit of wearing a simple surgical type mask only occurs when the majority of people are wearing them in order to reduce the risk of transmission.
The logical problem with this is that unless you can supply most of the population with masks then you can’t obtain the main benefit, as only a few people will be able to wear them. Up until very recently there has been a huge shortage of masks so there was not much point in making a policy which could not be implemented.
An exception to this would have been if a large minority of the population wore respirator masks, as this would have helped reduce the risk of the wearer exhaling or inhaling the virus, but these respirator masks are much more expensive and are also in short supply.
The second, and probably more important reason the UK and other governments have not promoted a policy to wear masks until recently is that if they had promoted a policy for everyone to wear them then the front line health workers, who are most vulnerable to infection, might not have been able to have the masks they needed.
However, the supply of masks has increased in a dramatic way over the last few months and availability to health workers and the general population is now secure, without the risk of shortages. This is why Kordis is now able to sell these masks to individual and business without a risk of causing supply problems to health workers and to allow everyone to follow Government policy to wear face coverings when travelling or in closed spaces.
DO ALL MASKS WORK? WHY NOT JUST USE A SCARF?
Not all masks have the same filtering properties, so the lower the specification, then the more easily the mask will let virus particles through.
If they have some certification, and many on sale do not, then Kordis believes that they should be constructed of three layers and at least have CE EN 14683 Type I certification, which has a BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) of greater than or equal to 95%, and be manufactured in factories with the correct certificates and have independently tested material to ensure it meets the standards quoted. All Kordis face masks meet these standards.
The worst specification masks with no certification may have very little effect on what you can breathe in or out, so are of little value, even though they may be blue and white and look similar to higher specified masks. This could also apply to some handmade single layer coverings or a woollen scarf. But a handmade multi-layer combination of thin and tightly woven cotton or silk scarves might be quite effective; but they need to be cleaned daily, and possibly more frequently.
They will also need to be carried home in a sealed bag and they must be washed in hot and soapy water every day; something which may not happen.
Therefore, the risk of using a hand made face covering is that you may end up increasing your risk of contamination unless you maintain very good hygiene procedures.
WHAT ABOUT THE REUSABLE MASKS?
The same issue applies to the reusable masks as to the hand made ones. You need to ensure that they have the correct filtration level to be effective, as many do not comply with international standards and may just be useful for preventing smog or smoke particles, and then make sure that they are cleaned at least once a day and carried carefully in a sealed bag to avoid any risk of contamination.
ARE KORDIS MASKS MEDICAL GRADE MASKS?
They are not medical grade masks for use in hospitals or in high risk healthcare areas, and the factory we purchase these masks from does not currently make the medical standard masks, so we are not taking capacity away from the medical sector. Our masks are made under strict hygienic conditions but the masks do not go through a special sterilisation process, which all medical grade masks need to have in order to qualify for the medical standard, so that is why we can sell them for general use.
Anyone with particular allergies to Polypropylene or fine dust particles needs to test out the use of a face mask very carefully. The filler protective barrier layer is made of melt blow Polypropylene which might release some small particles into the user’s lungs when inhaling. The other layer is form of paper. No latex is used except on the elasticated ear loops. It is extremely unlikely that wearing these masks will cause an allergic reaction but anyone with severe allergies should test using them for a short time in a supervised environment.
click here for instructions for use